Saturday, November 29, 2008

New Opportunities

Denominationalism reached its peak in the United States in the 1960s. I use the term for the horizontally integrated organizations that emerged in the early 20th century to “do the work of the churches.” Although some decry denominationalism as a bad thing, an objective observer could easily come up with a list of the advantages of this coordinated approach. Churches were able to identify with something greater than themselves. Curriculum was written, ministers were educated, missionaries were sent out, lay persons were trained, and people came to know the Lord. Denominations—Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians—were movers and shakers especially on the American scene.

That was then; this is now. Denominationalism is not what it used to be. George Bullard is in the process of developing a typology of denominations that should be helpful for framing future ministries alongside churches. At the same time, there are a number of ministries—some of which have been around for awhile and more being birthed daily—that want to partner with individual congregations and judicatories at every level to provide specific services and/or opportunities. These ministries are finding a niche for a number of reasons.

1. Some provide services once offered by denominations, but no longer available. One example of this is clergy development and career counseling.

2. These ministries are willing to customize their services to meet the needs of a particular church or judicatory. They reject the “one size fits all” approach and take into account the resources, context and calling of a specific church or group.

3. Their agenda is usually clearly stated. They provide a service for a fee. The services provided are specific, time-framed, and realistic. The costs of providing these services are also clearly delineated.

4. They often are ecumenical in nature.

5. They are “cutting edge” and agile. They are continually finding ways to improve the services they offer and adapt to new opportunities. They are entrepreneurial in nature.

6. Most are motivated by a desire to make a contribution to the kingdom of God.

This approach is not entirely new. It is similar to the model used by early missionary organizations, Bible societies, and youth/campus ministries. These groups perceived needs that the churches were not meeting and invited the churches to become part of these new enterprises.

As many of you know, one of the tracks I will be pursuing after January 1 is an affiliation with Pinnacle Leadership Associates, a group that provides coaching, training and consulting services for individuals, churches, and organizations. I believe it is one of these emerging organizations with a mission to assist churches and clergy with services that they might not find elsewhere. Being part of this next stage of “building up the Body of Christ” is a new challenge for me and a wonderful opportunity to continue to learn, grow, and serve.

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